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40 Questions to Ask at a Postdoc Interview for Research Fellowships

40 Questions to Ask at a Postdoc Interview for Research Fellowships

After finishing a doctoral program, you might decide to keep learning by getting a research job at a college, university, or somewhere else. When you apply for a research fellowship, you should be ready to answer a wide range of questions. You might get a fellowship if you look at how other graduate students answered common interview questions and then practice giving your own answers. In this article, we give examples of how to answer some of the most common postdoc interview questions. This will help you get ready for interviews for research grants.

General questions

Here are some examples of general questions that you might be asked during an interview for a postdoctoral research fellowship:

  • Please tell us more about yourself.
  • In three words, how would you describe yourself?
  • How do you do what you do best?
  • What are some of the worst things about you?
  • Tell us about one of your favorite childhood memories.
  • What motivates you and gives you ideas?
  • Why should someone hire you?
  • What’s the best thing you’ve ever done?
  • What’s the best thing about your job?
  • Want to learn more about the part?
  • How do you plan to find out more about what you do?
  • What do you value most in a job?
  • Tell me about the perfect place for you to work.
  • How important is networking for you?

Questions about work and history from the past

When you apply for a postdoc fellowship, you may be asked the following questions about your work history and education:

  • Before you went to a doctoral program, what kind of schooling did you get?
  • Where did you get your Ph.D., or what is your program if you are still working on it?
  • When doing research, how have you dealt with a problem with a team member?
  • Have you ever written for an academic journal?
  • Can you tell us about your past jobs?
  • Tell me about a time when you got through a tough situation.
  • Have you ever been in charge of something at a research job or managed something?
  • Tell us about a time when what you did helped a project succeed or made a difference.
  • How have you helped with a research project by using skills you already had?
  • What did you like most about your graduate school research?

In-depth questions

Your interviewer for a postdoc fellowship may also ask you questions like:

  • Why do you want this grant money for research?
  • Can you tell us more about your college research?
  • What do you want to do with your research once you have your PhD?
  • After you get your PhD, what do you hope to get out of this job?
  • Have you thought of any ways to help pay for research?
  • When you were last in the lab, what did you do?
  • Can you talk about the most important things you learned while doing research for your Ph.D.?
  • Have you worked with anyone else in your job? If so, can you tell me how it works?
  • If you got the job, how would you run the research in our facility?
  • How does your Ph.D. qualify you for this job?
  • How long have you been managing interns and people who help with research?

Examples of interview questions and answers for a postdoc

Here are some examples of how to answer detailed postdoctoral interview questions when applying for a research fellowship:

1. When you do research, do you like to work alone or with a group?

Try to answer this question in a way that shows you can be flexible, but be honest if you have a strong preference. Think about the job you’d like to get. If you prefer to work alone, you might not like it if it requires a lot of teamwork. People from different fields work together on research projects and reports in many postdoctoral jobs. After you have worked in your field for a while, you might also be able to do your own research.

Example: “I worked with many different groups while doing research for my Ph.D. While I was writing papers for academic journals, I also worked on some projects by myself. I think the work I do and the research I do will tell me if I should work alone or with a group. I probably like working with others more than working alone, but I’m also willing to work alone if the research is in a field I know well and I’m asked to lead the project.”

2. What kinds of ways do you know best to do research?

Use specific words to talk about well-known graduate school research methods when you answer this question. Choose a few methods to talk about in more detail, including how you used them during your doctoral program.

Example: “I know how to do research using the main methods, like the Arrow Framework, experimental design, case studies, and developmental studies. I learned that most methods can be put into one of three categories: qualitative, quantitative, or mixed. To get statistical data, you can use surveys, questionnaires, or information from the past. Qualitative methods are based on what people say or do, like focus groups or interviews.

I used a variety of methods for most of my graduate research and analysis. As part of the project, I put together historical information about the subject and then did a case study on how subatomic particles interact with each other when there is no gravity.”

3.How would the faculty adviser for your PhD program describe you?

Choose the words that best describe who you are at work to answer this question. It’s also a good idea to talk about how a professor helped you with your doctoral studies and how you worked with them. This shows that you are a good person who can work well with others to get research done.

Example: “My faculty adviser, Dr. Jones, would probably say that I am smart and work hard on my research if you asked him to describe me. I think she would also say that I am careful with my methods and clear when I look at my data.

My boss is Dr. Sara Jones. She is a well-known scientist who has written a lot of papers that have been published in academic journals. When I asked her to be my mentor, she said she would only say yes if I could show her I was willing to work hard and add my ideas to a paper she was writing. I think I proved my worth when she asked me to go to a conference with her and help present our findings.”

4. Do you know how to write grant proposals?

It’s important to know how to write a grant because colleges and universities often use grants to pay for research projects by students, fellows, and faculty. Even if you’ve never written a grant before, you can answer this question in an interview by talking about what you know about the process. You might find it helpful to make a practice draft of a grant that is related to your past research so that you can learn the steps and information you need.

Example: “In the last year of my Ph.D. program, I worked with my academic adviser to write a grant that would help her get the money she needed to keep doing research in astrophysics. First, I looked through both government and private databases to help me find a grant. Once we had found two that met our needs and qualifications, she asked me to help her write a draft of our abstract and needs statement.

Dr. Jones helped me with the other important parts, such as the literature review and the project narrative. We looked at records from the past to figure out the budget as a group. This helped us figure out how to spend money now and plan for future price increases for materials and staff. Before we sent in our grant proposal, I went over the final draft with other faculty members and helped make the changes they suggested.”

5. How did you hear about the grant we got for research?

You can talk about people you know in the industry when you answer this question. Showing that you have a network of professionals in your field shows that you are serious about the field and have a professional attitude. If you mention a connection that the interviewer already knows, you may give them another reason to hire you for the job, knowing that you come from a reliable source. If you don’t have a direct connection, use your answer to show that you’ve done a lot of research on the organization and know what its goals are for a certain research program.

Example: “Doctor Polk, who used to teach me astrophysics, told me right away about this role. He thought that my research experience would be a good fit for your program and knew that I was looking to move to the area. I was interested in research programs in the Mountain State even before I got my PhD. I’m impressed by how well your postdocs and scholars do their jobs, and I’m glad you give them so much money.”

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